I love to cook. More than that though I love to eat. Really love to eat. Good food anyway. And back in the day (ie pre-baby) when I had time in between training (which let's be honest even for a busy athlete is more than ample) and work/study I could easily spend hours planning, shopping and cooking. I would also spend hours reading cooking books and looking at the latest in my cooking magazine subscriptions. Now it seems that time is gone. I still love to cook and I still love to eat. And the importance of there being really good food on the table and in the fridge at all times of day has if anything increased. After all I am a firm believer that good food is a critical part of development and good health and there is no greater time than the first few years of life (including those 9 months tucked away in my tummy). But the luxury of time is certainly gone.
And so I have had to be more creative – or less so depending on how you look at it. I have come up with ways to ensure that I and my family are well fed. That doesn’t mean there are short cuts in the form of prepared meals, half prepped meals, snacks or frozen meals. I cook from scratch, always. I just think that I can do a better job in my own kitchen than what can be bought. This is not to cast a negative shadow on all bought options - I know some emerging companies are really trying to bridge the gap and doing a good job and there are many thankful parents. But yes, I am proud of that fact that at 2 my daughter has never had any sort of commercial baby or toddler food of any sort. Really its honestly not that hard - if you cook for yourself then its really easy to extend this to one more tiny little mouth, ben if there are some special requirements in terms of content, texture, timing.
So what do I do?
- Make use of home delivery. This is a true time and sanity saver. I can not imagine doing a supermarket shop with a newborn or a toddler. Instead a nice man delivers right to my kitchen for less than the cost of what it would be to drive to the actual store.
- Make use of home delivery. Not a typo – a different type of home delivery. The sort straight from the markets – fresh organic fruit and veg. I don’t but these from the supermarket but buy locally. Yep a bit more expensive but worth it when I can not get to the weekly markets. Maybe I am spoiled that this exists where I live, but reality says in most places these days there is some type of service geared around time efficiency.
- Shop local – for everything else on a daily basis I pick up locally – a walk from my front door. With young kids it becomes an activity too – and with a curious toddler one that can take a very long time. But as the saying goes, Two birds.
- Cook slow. Or fast. Depending on the weather and the day I cook either very slow – taking advantage of cuts of meat that can sit in the oven untended for hours and hours. And are unfussy as to exactly how many hours. Or I cook quickly – flash fried fish, salads, quick omelets and frittatas.
- Simple. We eat really well in this house but I don’t often take the time to really test out complicated new recipes. Instead I am confident and competent enough in the kitchen to constantly vary what we are eating by varying cooking technique, ingredients, herbs, spices. Sometimes (often actually) I can start to cook without actually having a firm plan of the endpoint. But it works out – mainly thanks to good ingredients to start with. And just knowing a few of the basics about cooking. Once you know how to cook a few things you can use these skills to cook almost anything. Or at least try.
- No special baby food. Don’t ever cook different meals for kids and adults. Kids eat more than we give them credit for and are curious and exploratory eaters.True, sometimes those efforts will end up spat out on the floor, or as bits that need to cleaned off the wall. But on the whole they will prefer to eat what you are eating anyway - especially if its actually off your plate as opposed to their own.
- Cook lots. Having leftovers is critical. They make the fastest snacks, breakfasts, next day meals as is or turned into something else. I could not survive without leftovers.
- Mental prep. This might sound a little silly, but sometimes the mental approach really makes a difference. Don’t view cooking as a chore or something that takes time. Even though it can feel like both at times, try and reframe it to an investment (a time (and cost) saver in the health department). And even better if it can act as a mini-escape – some time alone with the veggies and pots. Or as your kids get older, again its a great activity to have them join in and get interested in food.
So would this approach work for you? Maybe...but that likely depends on circumstance, location, willingness - as well as whether you like getting into the kitchen! What I can say is that the return on investment is there when it comes to your (and your family's) health to get organised with food. And to do the best you can with what you have availble to you. Let me know what tips and tricks you employ at home.